PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane has read the riot act to members of his All Basotho Convention (ABC), saying party officials who fight each other in the media would have automatically expelled themselves from the party.
Dr Thabane said this while addressing a weekend rally in the Tšoana-makhulo constituency in the Berea district.
His comments come against the background of infighting which has plagued the main ruling party since it came to power last year.
The earliest signs of internal strife in the ABC came immediately after the announcement of the cabinet in July last year with reports that legislators from the Berea district were not happy that only one of their number, Habofanoe Lehana of the Khafung #23 constituency was given a ministerial position. Mr Lehana was appointed as Local Government and Chieftainship Affairs minister.
The singular appointment was despite the fact that the district had given the ABC its second biggest area electoral win with nine seats out of the 11 contested in last year’s national polls.
The ABC won the most seats in Maseru with 15 seats out of the 18 contested in the district. The ABC garnered a total of 48 seats, while the AD won nine, BNP five and RCL one.
The infighting reached a climax in May this year with party chairperson Motlohi Maliehe launching a blistering attack on the First Lady, Maesaiah Thabane.
While addressing a rally in Hololo constituency in the Butha-Buthe district in May, Mr Maliehe said Ms Thabane was fomenting chaos in the party and in the government through “constant meddling” in the work of ministers and officials. He demanded that the First Lady stops meddling in state affairs forthwith or risk derailing the government.
The ABC chairperson accused the First Lady of derailing the government by seeking to control ministers and how they should perform their duties. He further accused Ms Thabane of violating the constitution and “abetting corruption” by instigating the removal of ministers who refused to comply with her demands.
His utterances provoked an immediate response from ABC leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane who was quoted in some sections of the media as having said that Mr Maliehe should pack his bags and leave his party and government positions. Mr Maliehe was subsequently fired from his post as Tourism minister. He has since been suspended from his party post and is consequently ineligible to contest in the party’s national executive committee elections in February next year.
More recently, two members of the ABC youth league, Messrs Litšoane Liaho and Lebohang Mohasi took to radio to accuse Finance minister Moeketsi Majoro of blocking the implementation of a solar energy project by German investors said to be worth M1, 5 billion.
Dr Majoro however, rubbished the allegations, saying he suspected there was a campaign to tarnish his image. The allegations against Dr Majoro come at a time when he is said to have been nominated for the ABC deputy leader’s post. National University of Lesotho vice chancellor Nqosa Mahao is also in the running for the post with elections due to be held in February 2019.
And on Sunday, Dr Thabane reiterated his call to party officials to refrain from public spats, saying the constant bickering tarnished the reputation of the party which has been at the helm of government since its victory in the 3 June 2017 snap national elections.
“I am admonishing you about your fighting on radio stations and you should cease that immediately,” Dr Thabane said, adding, “Any ABC member who continues with this (infighting) would have expelled themselves from the party”.
He said the constant bickering not only tainted the ABC’s reputation as the main party in the governing coalition (along with the Alliance of Democrats, Basotho National Party and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho) but also “discouraged those who voted for us”.
Dr Thabane also took the opportunity to honour some members who helped form the ABC in 2006, including the suspended Mr Maliehe.
The members received medals for their contribution to the party.
“We are very grateful for the members’ contributions in forming the ABC and it is only sad that some of them are no longer alive and we can only ask that their souls rest in eternal peace.”
Dr Thabane said the ABC had grown at an exponential rate since its inception. He also paid tribute to the Berea district for voting for the ABC and promised to address challenges that included lack of adequate water, electricity, unemployment and high prevalence of crime.
“We have grown from strength to strength from 17 seats to 51 and we are convinced that at this rate in 2022 (when the next elections are due) the whole parliament will comprise of our members.
“Today Berea is an ABC stronghold because you voted faithfully in all the 11 constituencies and this simply means that we are indebted to delivering services to you.
“In the last public gathering here in Berea I realised with concern that the district is still backward in many aspects which are impeding its development.
“I have therefore realised the need to convene an urgent cabinet meeting, especially with those ministers who hail from Berea to look into ways of addressing these challenges,” Dr Thabane said.